I am extremely grateful to have grown up with the experience of playing and leading others through adventures in Dungeons & Dragons as a youth. Mind you, this was during the controversial time (mid 80's) that D&D was placed under the social scrutiny by christian fundamentalists who were concerned with the power such a game might hold over young, inquisitive, developing minds. The concerns revolved around such questionable content that might arise during gameplay, such as: witchcraft, demonology, cannibalism, deviant sexual material, etc, etc (read: magic, characters and monsters with evil alignments, and open-story potentialities that could lead into infinite possibilities.)
Beyond this early public scare, criticizing fantasy play and causing many parents to ban their children from engaging in this new type of social 'game', we can examine well-known humans who accredit some of their success in life to the lessons learned through active role-play gaming. Some of the names you might recognize are: Stephen King, Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Felicia Day, Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock), and Vin Diesel. It is no surprise that actors and writers might share this common past-time; but there are countless stories from unknown successful entrepreneurs and managers that claim the wild benefits inherited from such play. You wouldn't notice the names, but the accolades themselves ring true.
While the imagination of the DM (Dungeon Master) may determine story elements and set the pace for the players, the game is largely experienced by the combined innovation and creative genius of each player. Role playing in an open world where anything is possible greatly encourages creativity and stimulates right-brain activity. The DM acts as world-builder and referee, with some foundational rules, but the actual story develops from group effort that is co-created upon the collective imagination. Often what excels the story forward is what might be considered outside-the-box concepts and innovation that develop real life problem solving skills.
This co-creative nature shines light on the importance of team-work within the game mechanics; identifying and utilizing each players skills and strong attributes, while supporting and balancing out the weaknesses is imperative to survival and leads toward continued enjoyment. While in an open world everyone has the ability to choose how to move forward, it quickly becomes evident that cooperation and collaboration are most rewarding. Don't get me wrong, there are still characters who may lean toward being greedy and out for themselves, and experiences that may send one player running in the opposite direction than the party; but overall consideration of how actions affect a group, and how those individual actions might best move the group forward become dominant regardless of character motivations and/or flaws. Besides, karma and consequence have their own way of teaching, whether in-game or in life.
Role playing in general creates a safe container for moral exploration, risk taking, as well as recovering from poor choices made along the way. What better than a fantasy environment to experiment with unknown, questionable, and sometimes dangerous ideas? While the real world implications may be harsh, the elements of imagination and play greatly soften the blow of a misplaced step; even an immoral decision. Not only does the DM control the universe's response to one's decisions, but party members' perceptions, judgments, and subsequent reactions also help guide the experience, and create social context. It can be a humorous and lighthearted way to test attitude, thoughts, and actions outside of real-life circumstances that might otherwise come with devastating consequence.
It's fun! In an age when much of our wakened state and focus goes toward a job we may or may not even like so that rent, bills, and food can be put on the table... making the time to throw dice on the same table can be quite rewarding. In-person gaming gives the player a chance to detach from the common digital interface and impersonal platforms. Not merely engaging with others around existential ponderings but actually acting out myriad situations that mirror common circumstance and putting them to the test together.
It's easy to see why the genre of live-action role-play is in resurgence. From expanding one's imagination and creativity, to supporting strong social interaction and team ethics, all within a safe container for radical experimentation and fun! Encourage role playing at any age; perhaps most beneficial for our children! The best way to teach is by example, and what an exciting way to build healthy relationships and character!